On Tuesday April 30, 2019, Matt Farris began his workday at the Verso Paper Mill located on the banks of the Potomac River in the small village of Luke MD. The news soon spread quickly that morning that the Luke Mill, one of the oldest manufacturing plants in the county for over 131 years, announced that the Luke operation will be ending production and closing operations by June 20th, 60 days away. The closure would result in the dislocation of nearly 700 employees. The reason being the continuing decline in global demand for the quality of paper that was produced at the Luke Mill. Adding to cause of the closure was the fact that imports of foreign paper had dealt a blow to the US paper industry. As a result of the announcement of closure of the mill, the State of Maryland Department of Labor submitted a Trade Act Petition review to the US Department of Labor. The Trade Act Petition received approval from the USDOL in July of 2019. The petition secured resources to assist the displaced workers with up to two years of support for job retraining assistance.
When Matt learned of the closure, his initial reaction was shock, just like every other worker at the plant. Matt took a little time to adjust. Then he started to formulate a plan. He attended a Rapid Response assistance workshop that was presented by the local Workforce Development agencies. During the workshop, Matt learned details of opportunities that were available to help displaced workers adjust to the circumstances of being unemployed. Matt focused his attention on the option of attending school. His goal being to obtain a credential that would put his career on track.
Matt contacted the admissions office of Allegany College of Maryland, gathered the appropriate information, and made a visit to the Allegany County One Stop Job Center. He met with representatives of the Western Maryland Consortium (local administrator of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) and the Maryland Job Service (administrator of federal Trade Act programs awarded to Maryland). Matt, with the guidance of agency staff developed an individual training plan that became the career pathway roadmap. Matt chose to attend Allegany Collage of Maryland, and he enrolled in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program. Matt received supportive services from WIOA and the training support of tuition and weekly benefits available from the Trade Act.
For the next 2 years from August of 2019 ending in May of 2021, Matt studied hard and successfully completed the Physical Therapy Assistant Program. He obtained the required necessary certification and industry recognized credentials, and accepted employment with Centra Health Care as a traveling physical therapy assistant.
Matt commented at his completion of training, “Like I've told members of TRA, DOL, AC, and Gail Groves, my career counselor, I greatly appreciate the opportunity that you guys presented at my feet in the face of a difficult employment transition period. The program was run beautifully as I had little trouble from any department along the way. You all stuck to your word from the beginning. I would not be in the good financial or career position if it were not for this entire program. I am truly grateful!”